Jack London collected 600 rejections before his first story sold.
I visited The House of Happy Walls museum at the Jack London State Historic Park in Glen Ellen, California, and peered into the display case, which entombed his rejections. I scanned the rejections and, to my amazement, discovered that some of them were from the same publishers who rejected my submissions. The experience inspired me to persevere.
Although not a writer, Babe Ruth experienced rejection. He struck out 1,330 times, but he also hit 714 home runs.
Jack Canfield and Mark Victor Hansen were rejected 140 times before the first copy of their popular Chicken Soup for the Soul books was accepted.
The Tale of Peter Rabbit by Beatrix Potter was rejected so many times she originally self-published it.
The Notebook by Nicholas Sparks received rejections from 24 literary agencies.
A rejection is only one person’s opinion. An editor, who turned down The Diary of Anne Frank, wrote: “The girl doesn’t, it seems to me, have a special perception or feeling which would lift that book above the ‘curiosity’ level.”
One of my manuscripts received 22 rejections before it was published the first time. I didn’t give up. I continued to submit it. To date, the personal experience piece has been rejected a total of 45 times, yet it’s also sold again and again as a reprint over a dozen times. What if I’d given up after 10 rejections? Or 20?. It would have never been published, nor read, nor helped others.
A story from Streams in the Desert may help you get back on the horse. “…I fixed my eyes on an ant that was carrying a grain of corn larger than itself up a high wall. I numbered the efforts it made to accomplish this object. The grain fell sixty-nine times to the ground; but the insect persevered, and the seventieth time it reached the top. This sight gave me courage at the moment, and I never forgot the lesson.”
Now, when you receive a rejection, remember the ant. Take courage and persevere.
During the time of Julius Caesar, when he disliked a book, he ordered the author’s writing hand chopped off. How fortunate we are in our generation. We need not concern ourselves with losing a hand.
Writing isn’t for wimps, or for those who are sensitive or thin skinned. It’s for writers who believe in themselves and their work, and realize that rejection is part of the business. Even with a thick skin, rejection hurts. Writers labor over their creations, and rewrite, trying to find that perfect word. Our manuscripts are like our babies. We send them out into the world, only to be rejected. Anyone who puts pen to paper knows the sting of rejection. It goes with the territory.
When a manuscript is rejected, give yourself a minute, a day, or more to grieve. Then, brush yourself off, and get back on the horse, so to speak.
Those who have gone before us were in our shoes at one time, amassing rejections, yet they were not deterred. They persevered. They honed the craft, wrote and rewrote, studied the market and submitted their stories until they were accepted!
Jack London was one of those who persevered. If you ever have the opportunity to visit The House of Happy Walls museum in Glen Ellen, California, be sure to check out the display case. You may recognize names of some of the publishers’ rejections and you’ll realize you’re in good company.
B. J. Bassett’s books include a historical novel Lily; A Touch of Grace—The G.R.A.C.E. Ministries Story, and coauthor of My Time with God which sold 55,000 copies while in print. Her recently released contemporary romance, Gillian’s Heart, is now available. Visit her at https://www.bjbassett.com.
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